First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
This week on the Ministerial Alliance program I’m looking at the books of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah- the so-called "Minor Prophets". They may have small books, but there’s nothing minor about their messages, as we saw Monday with Hosea and yesterday with Joel. Their messages are full of grace, mercy, chastisement, idolatry, and redemption. Those are the main messages of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, Old Testament to New. Today, we’ll see what the prophet Amos has to tell us. May God grant us ears to hear, hearts to learn, and may the Holy Spirit allow the truth of Jesus Christ to shine bright and clear, to the glory of God the Father- Amen!
The book of Amos starts out with a series of admonishments directed toward 6 nations, and then one each to Israel and Judah. The nations are Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. As James Montgomery Boice notes in his commentary on Amos, God starts with the most distant and then circles in to the most personal, ending with Israel. After listing each country’s transgressions, God reminds Israel and Judah of his sovereign protection over them. He reminds them of what it will be like when He removes that protection. Here… let’s look at the passages. First, God chastises Judah and Israel:
Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they have despised the law of the LORD, And have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray, Lies which their fathers followed. But I will send a fire upon Judah, And it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem." Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for silver, And the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, And pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl, To defile My holy name. They lie down by every altar on clothes taken in pledge, And drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god. (Amos 2:4-8 NKJV)
And then He reminds them of what He’s done for them:
"Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, Whose height was like the height of the cedars, And he was as strong as the oaks; Yet I destroyed his fruit above And his roots beneath. Also it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, And led you forty years through the wilderness, To possess the land of the Amorite. I raised up some of your sons as prophets, And some of your young men as Nazirites. Is it not so, O you children of Israel?" Says the LORD. (Amos 2:9-11 NKJV)
After reminding them of their transgressions, He tells what their punishment will be:
"But you gave the Nazirites wine to drink, And commanded the prophets saying, 'Do not prophesy!' "Behold, I am weighed down by you, As a cart full of sheaves is weighed down. Therefore flight shall perish from the swift, The strong shall not strengthen his power, Nor shall the mighty deliver himself; He shall not stand who handles the bow, The swift of foot shall not escape, Nor shall he who rides a horse deliver himself. The most courageous men of might Shall flee naked in that day," Says the LORD. (Amos 2:12-16 NKJV)
Basically, what’s going on in these countries is that they have instituted a national religion and fallen away from true worship. We know this from Amos’ own introduction to the book where he says:
The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. (Amos 1:1 NKJV)
If we read thru Kings and Chronicles, we find that Jeroboam established altars in the region and filled them idols of golden calves. He had the people worship these calves and sanctioned their idol worship. Thus, we have state authorized religion. In Amos, God speaks out specifically regarding the towns where these altars were. For instance, when he says:
"Come to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!" Says the Lord GOD. (Amos 4:4-5 NKJV)
He’s not patting them on the back. Instead, God is condemning their false worship. He’s letting them know that He knows full well that their sacrifices and tithes are not from the heart, but are from religious worship.
A point that non-believers usually fail to understand is that Christianity is not a religion. Certainly, there are religions that mimic Christianity, but true Christianity is observed from the heart, in grace, and thru faith. It is not gained from rote religion by works. God doesn’t care for those things at all, as he shows in the book of Amos and all over Jeremiah and most of the Old Testament and, well… most of the New Testament, too! After all, Jesus’ harshest criticism was reserved for the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the time. Jesus spent most of Matthew 23 saying things like this:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:25-28 NKJV)
What Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees is what God’s been saying all along thru the prophets and it's the message we've seen so far in Amos.
Next in Amos God declares that recent natural disasters were the result of His chastisement:
"Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. "I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. "I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. "I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. "I overthrew some of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. (Amos 4:6-11 NKJV)
God sent all these things and yet His people did not repent of their sins and return to Him. They continued on their wicked way, just as we do. Because of this, God proclaims what to me are some of the scariest verses in the Bible:
"Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth The LORD God of hosts is His name. (Amos 4:12-13 NKJV)
"Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" Yikes!!!
Now, what I see in these verses is the continued theme of a Holy God who will not tolerate the transgressions of His people. God Almighty is not a kindly, weak-kneed grandfather who puts up with misbehaving brats. No… He is "He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is…" This is God Almighty. As the author of Hebrews says:
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31 NKJV)
For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29 NKJV)
But God is not a vindictive merciless God either. Right along with his dire warnings to Judah and Israel is an offer of mercy.
For thus says the Lord GOD: "The city that goes out by a thousand Shall have a hundred left, And that which goes out by a hundred Shall have ten left to the house of Israel." For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: "Seek Me and live; But do not seek Bethel, Nor enter Gilgal, Nor pass over to Beersheba; For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, And Bethel shall come to nothing. Seek the LORD and live….(Amos 5:3-6 NKJV)
God repeats this offer several times in Amos- "seek the LORD and live". And along with this promise of salvation if they repent and seek the Lord, is an offer to restore to a greater degree. We’ve seen that offer in the messages of Hosea and Joel, and we see it here, too.
"On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name," Says the LORD who does this thing. "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, And no longer shall they be pulled up From the land I have given them," Says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:11-15 NKJV)
The message preached by Hosea, Joel, and Amos is repentance.
The message that Jesus preached was repentance:
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17 NKJV)
The message that Peter preached was repentance:
Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." (Acts 2:38-40 NKJV)
As did Paul:
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31 NKJV)
It’s the message in Revelation:
And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. (Revelation 16:9 NKJV)
How can we ignore such a great cloud of witnesses? Repent from your transgressions and turn back to God, claiming the atonement of Jesus Christ on your behalf.
Back to Joel
Forward to Obadiah